Municipality stops electricity deductions after protests

Residents in Pietermaritzburg say 40% has been deducted on prepaid electricity for years with no indication of what is still owing

Photo of burning road  barricade and police vehicle

Residents from Sobantu barricaded a road during an electricity protest. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

By Nompendulo Ngubane

5 June 2017

Residents in Sobantu, Pietermaritzburg, took to the streets last week to protest against 40% deductions on prepaid electricity. Roads were barricaded with burning tyres and tree branches.

Community members say that since 2014, 40% or more is deducted when they buy electricity.

The deductions were a pilot project by the Msunduzi Municipality to recoup electricity debts from residents.

But residents complain that although deductions are made, no indication is given of the outstanding balance and the deductions have been going on for years.

“It’s time they take this matter and look into it and sort it out,” said Sbongile Ntombela. “You go and buy electricity for R100 and they take 40% and that lasts [you] for a day or two.

“We are aware that most of us owe the municipality, but they said this was a pilot project not something that was permanent.

“At least if we would have proof that if they take this 40%, then how much is outstanding. There is no proof and they continue charging us for years now,” said Ntombela.

This is the second protest by the Sobantu community about the issue. The last one was in 2015. Nombuso Mkhize said deductions were then stopped for a period of six months.

“In a week, one would buy electricity three or four times,” said Mkhize.

Ward 35 councillor Sandile Dlamini said, “The matter was raised even with the previous ward councillor and the municipality is aware. For now, we can say that the municipality has agreed to stop the deductions. There are residents who have bought electricity and they confirm they have not been deducted. There’s only a few who are saying it is still deducted. For those who are still deducted, we have contacted the relevant operators of the system to fix it.”

Spokesperson for Msunduzi Municipality Thobeka Mafumbatha confirmed the municipality had stopped the deductions.